The Chronicler’s Safari

treasure_mapWhat happens when a writer feels empty? I’m not talking about writer’s block, or the times I can’t think of what a character should say or do next. I mean empty…like when there are no stories left in me.

This happens on occasions when I’ve been pushing really hard and have just completed a project, attended a book event, and participated in a panel for young writers all within a very  short time frame. In short I’m spent and I feel as I have been wrung dry of every story idea. If I were to sit in front of the computer nothing would happen, except maybe a game of solitaire or two.

It’s during times like these I am presented with a couple of choices: I can either sit in front of the television and become a vegetable or I can go on a story safari. It is often tempting to plant myself before the ‘one-eyed monster’ (as my mother called it), but the better, more exciting choice is to go on the hunt. So I pack my gear and head out into the story wilderness.

You might ask where that would be and what gear I need. I’ll start by listing the vital pieces of equipment needed on such a quest. My rucksack is filled with a digital camera for still photos and video and a digital recorder (a smartphone can be substituted for both of these items). I also carry a writing tablet, sketch pad, a couple of pencils (soft lead, of course), a bottle of water, and a protein bar.

The territory I cover is vast: the mall, the park, the movie theater, fast food restaurants, and these are just a few of the places I explore. When I get there I observe the denizen in their natural habitat. I make note of how they talk, the way they interact, and what they wear. I pay close attention to how they address or ignore their elders, especially how they whine and wheedle to get what they want. Without fail I come home with new story ideas.

Do I only go on safari when I’m empty? Absolutely not! I go out often because you ever know when a new idea will strike. Have my fans ever spotted me on one of my treks? As a matter of fact they have. They will often ask if I saw what just happened and will that be in one of my books. My answer is always: You never know what lurks in the heart and mind of a writer…the pages will tell the tale.

Audio Books and the Importance of Listening

girl with mp4

I am a reader. But I’m an admittedly slow reader. It takes me a very long time to finish a book. But I’ll work at it slowly each night. Being frustrated that my schedule was not allowing me to read all the stories that I wanted to, I recently turned to audiobooks and I wanted to share with you little bit about my experience.

Now I’ve always known about audio books, but I simply enjoy READING so much I just didn’t want to sacrifice a book to audio. Well, I was missing out.

I recently listened to the middle grade audiobook “Bigger than a Breadbox” by Laurel Snyder. It is an awesome story about when magic can and can’t do, beautifully read by Chris Fogg. The sound of the story had it’s own personality and I loved every moment of it. The experience is completely different than reading, and not too unlike watching a movie, but your ears and brain are doing all the work instead of your eyes.

After some research on the web I found a few interesting articles about the benefits of audiobooks and reasons why it’s not only a good idea but beneficial to add them to your “reading” repertoire.

This slideshare, shows some of the benefits of audiobooks for children and teens, like increased reading proficiency, increased vocabulary and pronunciation.

This pdf is a bibliography of articles and research on the benefits of audiobooks for young readers.

Here is a teacher and librarian resource site touching on the importance of audiobooks.

Free public domain audio books:

Audiobooks as a whole can be cost prohibitive and so I recommend checking out your local libraries which use Overdrive and/or OneClickDigital for audio books that you can easily download.

So there’s no reason not to try out a great audiobook. Let us know what you’ve listened to!


AnshaKotyk Ansha Kotyk continues to read paperbacks and ebooks, but now a whole new world has opened up with the sound of audiobooks.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads





Two Hot New Releases!

Fire on the Mountain

What really happened on the mountain twelve years ago? 

Final Fire from the Mountain cover

Though his apprenticeship hangs on him like an ill-fitting garment, Quon is unprepared for the twist his life takes when his parents are killed and he is forced to flee Miruna. Adrift in the wilderness with no purpose and no protection, he is approached by an old man who hints that his destiny may be more than he imagined. Ancient tales fill Quon’s head with expectations of glory, but he soon learns that being a hero is far different than dreaming of becoming one.

Follow Song as he uncovers his family history in this second installment of the Mountain series, Fire on the Mountain…

Song newKindle | Nook | Paperback (coming soon)

Have you read book one? Nominated for a 2013 Cybils Award and capturing semi-finalist honors in the Kindle Daily Book Review 2013 Book Awards, Song of the Mountain is now FREE. Kindle | Nook | Kobo

The Stone of Valhalla

Cover SMALLAaron was chosen to save their world, but it might come at the cost of losing his own.

Breaking into an old lady’s basement was supposed to reward 13-year-old Aaron with new friends. Instead he finds an enchanted amulet that transports him to another world—one at war with magic. Before he knows it, he is accused of witchcraft and invited to a bonfire—where he’s the main attraction. If that’s not bad enough, a goblin army shows up and toasts the town…literally. The good news: Aaron escapes being charbroiled. The bad news: the goblins are after him. They want his amulet and will stop at nothing to get it. Battling to find his way home, Aaron teams up with a not-so-magical-wizard and learns it’s his fate to destroy the amulet and save this new world. But is he willing to sacrifice his own?

Exclusive price for the eBook release is just $2.99! (List Price: $4.99)

And only $9.99 for the paperback! (List Price: $12.99)

On April 12th 2014 the price will return to the List Price

 Kindle | Paperback

giveawaysYou’re Invited to PARTY!!

The online launch party will take place on Thursday, April 10th at 2pm (EST). The party will run for 2 hours and you’re invited to drop by anytime. The longer you stay the more chances you have of winning prizes! We have slew of eBooks to giveaway, as well as a Stone of Valhalla necklace AND a $25 Amazon gift card! It is hosted by LovingtheBookLaunchParty on Facebook. Just follow this link to join the event:

Writing Prompt – Ugly Foot Finds Its Doppleganger

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”
~ Albert Einstein

Inspiration! It can happen anywhere!

Ideas are born in the strangest places, ignited by bizarre objects or strange people. Or a random photo from my daughter’s honeymoon pics.

Here’s the scoop: Lily was excited to get a window seat on the plane for their honeymoon trip. Then the passenger behind her rested his/her ugly, bandaged foot on Lily’s armrest. She couldn’t stomach the sight of it. Her hubby gave in and traded seats. (After all, a happy wife is a happy life, right?)

BBH McChiller, Lynn Kelley, Kathryn Sant

Almost anything can be used as a writing prompt. Even a photo of an ugly foot!

If you were in an English class and were given an impromptu assignment to write a story based on the photo on the left, what would you write?

Nonfiction? How to politely elbow that foot off your armrest? The importance of cleansing wounds? *yawn*

Sci-fi/Paranormal? Ugly Foot Finds Its Doppelganger in an Alternate Dimension?

Horror? Remember the movie The Crawling Hand? It scared the heck out of me when I was a kid! How about writing a sequel called The Prowling Foot?

Humor? Is there anything that could possibly be funny about that foot?



Hmm…what would Erma Bombeck have written?Erma Bombeck could write about anything and make it humorous.







Romance? Good grief! I’m not going there.

Mystery? One with lots of subplots and dead bodies with missing toes? That might be horror, too. *Shudders* Definitely not a story I could write!

“Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it,
and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
~ Sylvia Plath

You know what that photo of an injured foot inspired me to write? A crazy blog post!

“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”
~ Henry Ward Beecher

Could you stomach sitting next to that ugly foot?
Do you find ideas in weird places? What inspires you to be creative?

Lynn Kelley Author, Curse of the Double Digits, BBH McChiller, Monster Moon mysteries

Lynn Kelley worked as a court reporter for 25 years while she and her husband, George, raised their four little rascals, but nowadays she’s a goofball in the highest degree who’s susceptible to laughing jags. She tries to control herself out in public, but it’s not easy. She’ll jump at any excuse to wear funky get-ups. For instance, making wacky YouTube videos, entertaining her grandkids, or hanging out at a costume party.

Her first chapter book, Curse of the Double Digits, debuted in October 2012. Under the pseudonym BBH McChiller she and co-author Kathryn Sant write the fun, spooky Monster Moon mystery series for ages 8 to 12. Curse at Zala Manor is the first book in the series, and Secret of Haunted Bog is the second title. Book 3, Legend of Monster Island, will be out shortly.

Website | Lynn Kelley Author Facebook |BBH McChiller Facebook | Who is BBH McChiller? | YouTube Channel

New “Tween” Release-ARMS OF ANU

ARMS OF ANU is officially released! I’m super excited to bring you the sequel to award-winning tween/teen fantasy ARROW OF THE MIST.



In Arms of Anu, Lia and Kelven battle through a land of tyrants, war and magic.

Can Lia escape the foes who ensnare her?

Will Kelven’s love withstand the darkness taking root inside Lia?

Is freedom too high a crown to reach, or will they forever remain in the hollows?

“Excellent fantasy story for preteens and teens. Explores a Celtic-style world of magic, with a little romance, through the eyes of both female and male protagonists.”  Indie-Visible Ink



head shot image extra crop color


Christina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees. For more about her and her writing, visit




The Strange Business of Writing Fiction…

Manuscript, inkwell and featherThe business of writing fiction for a living is altogether strange. The writer is not like the farmer with his seeds, the teacher with her curriculum, the pianist with her Steinway or the violinist with his Stradivarius. The writer has only what’s between the ears—and whatever can be coaxed to bubble up and be set down on the page. And even if the fiction writer strikes literary gold, there’s still the iffy, grubby business of getting it published.

Cue the violin…

There is one writer I know of who toiled for years over what he thought was his masterpiece, only to be metaphorically kicked in the teeth over and over again. He couldn’t even find a North American publisher at first, so in desperation he sent his manuscript to an agent in Britain, who managed to get his book published in a series of three volumes. Good stuff, you say? Um, no. Unfortunately, the publisher managed to somehow lose the ending of the book—the epilogue—which rather ruined the effect. Needless to say, the British critics panned the book. Even the Goodreads’ trolls can’t hold a candle to them.

The bad press was disastrous; the author was deeply in debt and praying that the book would earn enough money to placate the bill collectors. His prayers fell on deaf ears. But to be fair, the book he’d written was… strange. It dealt with, among many other themes, madness, murder and mass slaughter, of both men and animals. His main character was an animal—an albino, in fact, which thought and acted like a sadistic human stalker. And when the author found an American publisher willing to print a North American edition, the book ended up being a dud— mostly because of those critical British reviews.

Sadly, the author never really recovered from his failure and died an unhappy, debt-ridden failure. Hmm. It’s too bad he didn’t live a little longer. The author’s name was Herman Melville and his book, Moby Dick, is now considered a classic.

Strange business, writing fiction…

Sharon Ledwith HeadshotSharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, available through Musa Publishing, and is represented by Walden House (Books & Stuff) for her teen psychic series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, yoga, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her WEBSITE and BLOG. Look up her AMAZON AUTHOR page for a list of current books. Stay connected on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+, TUMBLR, and GOODREADS. Check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

The Inspiration that keeps Me Writing


20111210_ABS_1296[1]Hello everyone, I hope all is well with you. I’m Lisa Orchard the author of the best-selling Super Spies Mystery/Thriller series. I’m here today to discuss my inspiration for my writing. There have been many highlights for me during my writing career, but there’s one that really stands out.

Each year I conduct a writing workshop for a local girl’s group. It’s so nice to work with these young girls who are pursuing their dreams. They’re so eager to learn and it’s a rush to work with such inquiring young minds. Each experience is extremely rewarding and the main reason I keep writing. It’s good for the girls as well, to meet an author or an artist and realize that they’re normal people and not celebrities. It makes their dreams possible. I mean if this “normal” mom can write a book, why can’t I?

Their goals and desires become obtainable and this is what I want these young girls to realize, that they can do it with hard work and perseverance. Success doesn’t just happen to the lucky.

I want these girls to leave with that “I can do it” attitude when they finish my workshop and I feel like I accomplish it each time I do one. I want girls to grow up with the confidence that they can achieve their dreams if they “believe.” All the Emblazon Authors feel this way.

They want to inspire and motivate young people with their stories, so if you’re looking for some great middle grade reads, check out the Emblazon books. You’ll be glad you did! ;)

Thanks for reading my post. I’d love to hear what inspires you to keep writing. So leave a comment I’d love to hear from you. In addition, I’m pictured below  with the girls from the writing workshop I conducted a few months ago. I gave each one a copy of my book as a prize for participating. I must say these workshops are just plain fun! :)



20111210_ABS_1296[1]Lisa Orchard grew up loving books. She was hooked on mysteries by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. She knew she wanted to be a writer even then.  “The Super Spies and the Pied Piper” is the second book in the “Super Spies” series. Her first book was published in March of 2012 and it has received rave reviews.

After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Marketing Degree she spent many years in the insurance industry, pining to express her creative side.  The decision to stay home with her children gave her the opportunity to follow her dream and become a writer. She currently resides in Rockford Michigan with her husband, Steve, and two wonderful boys. Currently, she’s working on a Coming of Age Young Adult Novel. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, running, hiking, and reading.

You can find Lisa Orchard here:




Tips From a Middle-Grade Panel

Farworld_Water.FRecently I attended a writer’s conference in Utah where I was invited to participate on a panel for children’s writers. I was the only author on the panel representing middle-grade indie authors (or those that are self-published). It was a wonderful experience to sit next to top selling authors like Chad Morris, author of Cragbridge Hall series, and J. Scott Savage, author of the Farworld series and The Case File 13 series. Sometimes as an indie author I feel dwarfed when sitting next to these big names. However, I’ve learned they’re just like me: there to ‘write stories on the heart of children’

cover1-v2The panel started with the moderator asking us why we wrote children’s books. Many of the panelists had the same response that I did. It was a middle-grade book that sparked our love of reading. For me it was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I was a kid that didn’t have many friends, and I was isolated on a farm surrounded by a haunted forest (at least I thought it was haunted). That book helped me connect with another world: one filled with magic. It was the book that helped me discover the type of person I wanted to be. It taught me a valuable life lesson: If I want something, I have to work hard to get it. Dorothy just wasn’t told at the beginning to use her shoes—she was told after she’d tried everything else. After she’d traveled miles and miles through a foreign land filled with dangerous creatures and faced an evil witch, then she found she had the power all along to get home. For me as a boy, that was priceless information. Now I write the books I would have loved to read when I was kid. I want my books to have that magical realism but somewhere hidden in the text, there’s a message about strength and hope.

15818470The next question was what is the most important thing to remember about writing children’s books. Many said to make them fun, engaging, thrilling, adventurous, ect. J. Scott Savage said to make them smart. He shared that when his editor at HarperCollins was reviewing the manuscript for Case Files 13: Zombie Kid, they asked him to change a few things that he just added. Scott was trying to make the book funnier by adding in some humor that would appeal to kids. Mostly body humor. (Think farts, boogers, etc.) When he asked why they wanted it removed, they said, “We want this to be a smart book.” What they meant was: sure kids love the funny body sounds, but adults don’t. With the growing number of adults reading middle-grade books, they wanted his book to be something that would be loved by both children and adults—a smart book. He made the changes and ended up getting a starred review from Kirkus Reviews (only given to the best of the best books).

Cragbridge-HallAnother question we had was what do include and exclude in middle-grade books. This was a fun question because we talked about several things that a lot of writers say DON’T put in middle-grade. One was horror. If your story has dark concepts you can still include them, you just don’t add a lot of details into it. With the lack of details, you allow the child to create in their mind what they can handle. Another was romance. A lot of people say, oh, don’t put that in. But guess what? Kids dig reading about “the crush”. Most of them actually will have their first crush around this time. But just like horror, you limit the details of things and you don’t move past the crush stage. Once that threshold is passed, you go into YA. We then moved on to what to include in middle-grade. Chad Morris shared that he liked his books to teach but in a fun way that kids didn’t pick up. (Yes, a little secret teachers and parents don’t want their kids to know: middle-grade books are filled with math, history, humanities, arts, and science). The trick is to make these educational moments fun. Chad’s books are a great example of this. His book is set in the distant future where kids learn through virtual experiences. Just check out the book trailer for The Inventor’s Secret (yes, it’s like a Hollywood movie preview). You’ll get how he makes history fun to learn about. Another set of books that have capitalized on the education fun aspect are The 39 Clues and The Infinity Ring series published by Scholastic. They teach loads of math, science and history in fun and fantastical ways.Cragbridge Hall Bk2_cover

As always, the panel ended with encouragement to aspiring authors. I counseled that in or to write really terrific middle-grade books you need to be reading really terrific middle-grade books. We learn as we read. (Yes, another little secret). I hope you have learned a little from this fun panel that I was able to take a part in. There was a ton of other great information given, but it was hard for me to take notes while up on the panel. Keep writing on the hearts of children! -Mikey Brooks

Using Tweens as Beta Readers

I like to involve Tweens in my writing process. One of my favorite ways to do this is to recruit a handful as beta readers. Not my only beta readers, mind you. I still want seasoned adult writers to take a look and make sure my story is well constructed. Then my editor is my final line of defense. But Tweens provide a unique point of view. After all, they are my target audience.

homeworkHow do I find them? Easy! There is a school with several hundred Tweens just down the road. I march inside and start asking teachers if they have any students who might be interested in reading an ARC and offering feedback before the book hits Amazon. The answer has always been a resounding YES! You could try asking teachers online, too. There are a thousand ways to make connections through social media.

So what specific things do I ask of Tweens when they beta read for me? I have them look for the basics: typos, spelling, homophones, etc. More importantly, I ask them to make sure everything works. Were there any jokes you didn’t get? Did the characters strike you as authentic or too stereotypical? Were there any questions left unanswered? Could I make any better vocab choices? I welcome all such comments and suggestions.

I have done this several times now, and the feedback has been terrific. It’s a unique opportunity for kids to experience the writing process with a real live author. And it’s a great way for teachers to help kids get excited about reading and writing.

So, what works and doesn’t work? Here are some tips based on my experience:

  • Don’t engage an entire class unless you want to wade through 25-30 responses. A whole class broken into small groups works okay, but it’s still nicer to engage with only 5 or 6 kids. Ask for high readers who might like a special project.
  • Make sure everyone involved gets a copy. This does get expensive if you engage a whole class, but in the one case where a teacher wanted everyone involved, I made paperbacks available at cost.
  • This does not work as well with sequels. I tried it with my second Taylor Davis book. I had to supply book one, and we lost momentum while the kids read through it. Try asking your original beta readers if you can email them when the next book is ready.
  • Do ask for reviews, but don’t expect them. In my case, the teachers have never followed through on this. They simply have too much to do.

There have been a few drawbacks, but for the most part, engaging Tweens as beta readers has been a wonderful experience. Who better to supply feedback than the audience for whom the book is intended? Fellow writers, you might want to consider such a venture when you plan your next book. And teachers, don’t be afraid to approach authors. The ones I know would be thrilled with such a suggestion. It really is a win-win situation.




Michelle Isenhoff writes adventures for kids up to age 79 (so far). She’s the author of the popular Divided Decade Trilogy and the humorous Taylor Davis series. Her newest book, number two of the critically acclaimed Mountain Trilogy, releases soon!

The River Between

The Gap Between Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction
Sometimes I wonder if it was wise of me from a marketing standpoint to write both Middle Grade fiction and Young Adult Fiction. They seem to be sometimes miles apart.
Many times I when I look at my sales of both genres I can see the big divide. And when I attend publishing conferences or writing events I’m constantly told not to jump genres all the time.
The most important reason is the building of different markets. When you write a book in a specific genre, market that book, build a fanbase for that book within your genre – changing it means basically starting all over again.
Someone who reads mostly romance may not be a fan of your new horror book. It’s so much easier to build and maintain an engaged audience when you keep feeding them goods they love. Which in turn saves marketing dollars and efforts.
BUT…if you write companion genre it may help instead of hurt. For me, I hope my middle grade readers grow up to like my young adult novels as well.
Yep, because let’s face it. Readers are picky and creatures of habit. Yeah, I may jump out of my comfort zone once in a while but most people love the same type of story and genre. For instance, all those girls that loved Disney’s fairytale love stories probably love romances that are grown up love story, lol!
This to some people is the bottom line. I have to admit that my Middle Grade books sell MUCH better in person at book signings, direct to stores and other venders then it does in ebook. It’s growing in ebooks but not by leaps an bounds mainly because most people prefer to buy their 6th-8th graders paperback books over ebooks.
My Young Adult novels do much better on the ebook formats than the paperback. Over the years their paperback sales have shifted to the ebook format although remaining somewhat steady in paperback.
SOOO…… What are your thoughts? Do you like to read an authors book when they hop genre even when the genre is something you aren’t in love with?
by: LM Preston,
Middle Grade and Young Adult author